|Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Petry|
Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Petry, who will have the Medal of Honor placed around his neck July 12, 2011, by the president of the United States, recounted the moment after his hand was taken from him by a grenade during a May 26, 2008, combat operation in Afghanistan.
Some excerpts from an inspiring article, Prosthesis helps Medal of Honor hero stay with Rangers by C. Todd Lopez on The Official United States Army website:
“At the time of his actions in Afghanistan, Petry was assigned to Company D, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. Petry’s actions came as part of a rare daylight raid to capture a high-value target.
Petry’s Ranger unit, he said, runs roughly 400 missions during a four-month deployment.
With three Soldiers taking cover in the coop, an insurgent threw yet another grenade. This time, the grenade landed just a few feet from the three Soldiers — much closer than the earlier grenade.
“It was almost instinct — off training,” Petry said of his response to the situation. “It was probably going to kill all three of us. I had time to visually see the hand grenade. And I figure it’s got about a four-and-half second fuse, depending on how long it has been in the elements and the weather and everything and how long the pin has been pulled. I figure if you have time to see it you have time to kick it, throw it, just get it out there.”
That’s when Petry picked up the grenade and threw it away from him and his buddies. As it turns out, he did have the time to save all three of their lives — but not time to save his hand.
The grenade exploded as he threw it — destroying his throwing arm.
“I actually didn’t think it was going to go off,” Petry said. “I didn’t really feel much pain. I didn’t know it had gone off and taken my hand until I sat back up and saw it was completely amputated at the wrist.”
Petry put a tourniquet on his now severed arm, to prevent further blood loss. That was something he said he knew how to do as a result of good Army training. Then he had to focus on those around him.
Leroy Petry fitting prosthetic arm
|Leroy Petry fiting prosthetic arm|
“He wanted to stay in the Army, very much,” he said. “He wanted to deploy again, he wanted to restore his life as much as he could. We talked a lot about what was possible and what we could help him with.”
Petry said he drew inspiration from those around him in the hospital — from fellow Soldiers with severe burns and “phenomenal attitudes,” to those with injuries similar to his own.
“The first person that came and visited me in the hospital was a female,” Petry said. “She was a double-amputee above the elbow. She had the greatest attitude. She was hanging out with the guys, having a great time. To see that kind of reaction, I thought I have nothing to complain about.”
Ficke said that he was able to close Petry’s wound over his wrist, so the Ranger had available a functioning wrist that could provide rotation. Ideally, a prosthetic hand would fit over that and he would use his own wrist to rotate the hand. But his own wrist was not as capable as it could have been, Ficke said.
“Sometimes his own ability to turn that wrist would not be as good as some of the prosthesis,” Ficke said. “He and I and the prosthetist, all kind of talked and decided to have a shorter forearm and take away that wrist so that he could have a prosthesis that would do that with motors.”
Removing a living part of his body to replace it with a more capable mechanical equivalent might be a tough choice — but Petry said he’s pleased with the results.
|Leroy Petry, Mr. Troy Farnsworth|
“It’s a great hand,” Petry said. “It’s got a couple of sensors built in underneath the casting right above the skin. What’ll happen is, every muscle contraction you make will send signals up to the hand. Each finger, when it meets resistance, it will stop. So you got more dexterity to grab round shapes and stuff like that and this particular hand is able to have a couple of other modes, where you can pinch and so a grasp.”
Petry’s prosthetist built a fitting to slide over Petry’s forearm so the hand can attach, and also placed sensors to pick up electrical signals from his muscles. After working with a therapist, Petry’s robotic hand moves with the very signals he used to use to control his own hand.
Stays in Army
Despite his injuries, Petry recently re-upped in the Army for eight more years, which will take him to a full 20 years of service.
Petry is the ninth servicemember to have been named a recipient of the Medal of Honor for actions in Afghanistan or Iraq. Of prior recipients, all but Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta were awarded the honor posthumously.
Petry currently serves as a liaison officer for the United States Special Operations Command Care Coalition-Northwest Region, and provides oversight to wounded warriors, ill and injured servicemembers and their families.
He enlisted in the United States Army from his hometown of Santa Fe, N.M. in September 1999.
Petry has served as a grenadier, squad automatic rifleman, fire team leader, squad leader, operations sergeant, and weapons squad leader.
He has deployed eight times in support of the War on Terror, with two tours to Iraq and six tours to Afghanistan.
Read more: Prosthesis helps Medal of Honor hero stay with Rangers on the Official Homepage of the United States Army
Photo credit: Sgt. 1st Class Leroy A. Petry gets fitted with a new prosthetic robotic arm by Mr. Troy Farnsworth, on July 11, 2011. Petry has been nominated for the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions on the battlefield during 2008 in Afghanistan.(U.S. Army)